By Jeff Berlinicke
Of all the unsung heroes in Sunday's 27-13 win over the New Orleans Saints, Jon Gruden deserves the most credit for what was perhaps the call of the season.
In the fourth quarter, with the Bucs leading by only 17-13, Chris Simms' pass deep in Bucs territory was ruled an interception after it was blocked at the line of scrimmage and caught on the ground by Saints linebacker Ronald McKinnon. With the 3-13 Saints close to taking a lead that could have knocked the Bucs out of any possibility of home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs, Gruden threw his red flag to challenge the play without any word from his assistant coaches watching the replay in the booth. Gruden knew that losing the challenge would cost the Bucs a crucial timeout, but he went with his gut.
As the Saints offense ran onto the field, with the Ball on the Bucs 26, Gruden's flag hit the field just in time. The play was reviewed and it was ruled that McKinnon trapped it. The Bucs got the ball back, moved down the field, and Matt Bryant's 26-yard field goal put the Bucs back up by seven.
Later in the game, Dewayne White's 34-yard fumble recovery and return for a touchdown wrapped it up, but Gruden's gutsy call was overshadowed.
Gruden knew he was gambling and went with his instinct.
"We've had a lot of luck with instant replay this year,'' Gruden said. "I plan to vote for it again next year.''
Simms also instantly became a fan of instant replay.
"That was big, just from the sense that we hadn't moved the ball a whole lot in the second half. Then (after the ruling) we converted a third-and-10 and that kind of got us jump-started. We needed it.''
The Bucs will host the Washington Redskins on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs beat the Redskins 36-35 on Nov.13, but the Redskins are riding a six-game winning streak.
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